D.J. Williams' chance at tight end is upon him

D.J. Williams' chance at tight end is upon him
August 5, 2014, 10:30 am
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RICHMOND, Virginia – It’s showcase week for D.J. Williams. A John Mackey Award winner in 2010 and fifth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2011, Williams has bumped around the league for three seasons. He hasn’t gotten a firm toehold.
But this week in the oppressive heat of Richmond, Williams has a chance to make his case as a Patriots tight end.
Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui were left back in Foxboro with injuries, bumping Williams to the top of the depth chart during these practices against Washington.
On Monday, Williams was the primary tight end with the first group. He had one showcase play in particular, a very nice catch down the seam during the Patriots hurryup dissection of the Washington defense.
But there were dozens of other reps Williams took on Monday – in the running game, in 1-on-1s, in 7-on-7s – that will go toward determining whether he sticks or goes. I didn’t watch enough of Williams specifically to make a layman’s appraisal of how he did. But I do know he didn’t particularly suck. Which is good
Williams understands this is a good week to have a good week.
“I’ve never done a joint team camp and it is a great place for evaluation,” he said. “I understand that. It’s a competitive league, a competitive business and here at the Patriots, a very competitive program. Each and every day, I understand nothing is given, everything is earned. I really like the opportunity to come out here and compete not just against competition (but against teammates on the roster).”
Williams’ story is a tough one. His father was an alcoholic, violent and abusive. Williams saw and experienced a lot before his mother moved the family to a shelter away from Williams’ father. Days later, Williams father shot a man eight times. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. At the shelter, Williams’ mother spread a map on the table and said for the children to pick a place to live. They settled on Little Rock, Arkansas. From that trauma in his formative years, Williams grew. He went to Arkansas and has become a moving spokesman on spirituality.
In the grand scheme, making an NFL team and dealing with the mind battle that comes along with it pales compared to what Williams went through.
Williams didn’t invoke his upbringing when we spoke Monday, but in revealing his approach, you can see it requires mental toughness
“I really do enjoy getting reps – I’m sure anyone would say the exact same thing – but I think the approach hasn’t changed due to injuries at the position,” he stated. “I still approach every day the same, as if I’m prepared essentially to play a full game and help our team out and give us the best chance to win. Whether that means I’m the guy up or the guy waiting to see what happens, nothing changes in the approach.”
I asked Williams if he felt he was approaching a career crossroads. I expected he might be introspective, candid about facing a football mortality.
He really wasn’t.
“It’s very exciting but I’m pretty set in stone on the mindset (of preparing to be in at a moment’s notice),” he replied. “I’ve been a couple places so the thing I focus on most is always be prepared and always be game-ready. I want to always, when I get on the field, be able to know the players and coaches can hold me accountable. Iron sharpens iron, in the end everyone makes everyone else better and it will work itself out.”
I didn’t hear what I expected but that didn’t make the response any less insightful. The kid’s been through plenty. He loves the chance he has now and he’s going to keep plowing forward doing what he’s asked as well as he can. After that, it’s out of his hands.